Editor’s Note: We welcome Jayna Omaye to our blogteam! She’s a journalist with Northwestern University and we are very excited for the professional insight and writing she brings to you our reader.
What happens when your job is covering the government as a journalist, but the government shuts down for two weeks? That was the dilemma many journalists faced as hearings, speaking engagements and other events were postponed so legislators could focus on reopening the government.
Sometimes it’s really easy to get caught up in the politics of an issue, especially when you’re in D.C. When the government shut down, many people were concerned with which politician was arguing for what, why the two parties couldn’t get along, etc.
But the real effects of the shutdown could be seen through the eyes of the average, everyday person: the furloughed employees, the tourists who traveled all the way to D.C. to see barricaded monuments, and the businesses near the Hill that took a beating.
These stories were worth telling, and that is what my classmates and I tried to focus on during the shutdown. If you weren’t in the district during these past two weeks, the shutdown may not have been as obvious. But it has affected everyone, including those not in D.C.
I remember calling my mom to ask her if the federal cemetery where my grandparents are buried in Hawaii was still open. The thought of it closing only hit her as she was driving up the hill to the cemetery.
During the first week of the shutdown, I was working on a story about how well youth followed government news. A Pew study found that younger Americans were least likely to follow the shutdown.
I remember talking to a furloughed intern who was worried about receiving college credit for her internship if the shutdown didn’t end soon. In the meantime, she had to substitute her internship experience with reading textbooks and writing essays. Another intern I talked to was not furloughed because her Congressman deemed his entire staff essential.
Another story I worked on was a video about how D.C. tour companies were affected by the shutdown. I went into the story expecting that these businesses would say the shutdown was horrible and devastating to their business. But again, I was surprised.
Even though one tour company said they were losing business and customers, they also said the shutdown allowed them to explore other avenues and be resourceful. They were able to increase their neighborhood and food tours, which weren’t affected by the shutdown, and help furloughed local workers tour and see their own neighborhoods.
Many people think working as a journalist in D.C. is all about covering government hearings and the politics of an issue. While that is half true, the other part of the job is understanding how what happens in D.C. affects the rest of the country.
I know many people who don’t like “politics.” And while I understand where they’re coming from (because it can be very confusing to grasp), politics and policies encompass everything in this country.
Every single bill that passes through Congress and is signed by the President affects citizens nationwide, whether they know it or not. This idea was even more apparent these past two weeks.
So what happens when your job is covering the government as a journalist, but the government shuts down? As always, you concentrate on real people and their stories.
My shutdown stories:
“D.C. tourism takes a hit during government shutdown”
– Jayna Omaye